Memorial Week: Sara Miller McCune on Remembering Marcia Guttentag (1933-1977), Pioneer in establishing evaluation as a distinct field

This is the beginning of a series remembering and honoring evaluation pioneers leading up to Memorial Day in the USA on May 30.

My name is Sara Miller McCune, Co-founder and Chair of Sage Publications. In 1975, Sage published the 2-volume Handbook of Evaluation Research co-edited by Marcia Guttentag. That Handbook helped establish Evaluation as a distinct field of applied social science scholarship and practice. Marcia conceived the Handbook while serving as president of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (1971) and Director of The Center for Evaluation Research affiliated with Harvard University. She was a deeply committed feminist ahead of her times in focusing on gender equity, women’s mental health, reduction of poverty, and intercultural dynamics. As we worked together to finalize the Handbook, I came to appreciate her vivacious personality, wonderful sense of humor, brilliant intellect, and feminist perspective, all of which came into play in conceptualizing the Handbook and seeing it through to publication. Our collaboration on the Handbook led to publishing her breakthrough work on “the sex ratio question” after her untimely death at the age of 45.handbook of evaluation research

Pioneering and Enduring Contributions:

The Handbook articulated methodological appropriateness as the criterion for judging evaluation quality at a time when such a view was both pioneering and controversial. She wrote in the Introduction: “The Handbook provides the type of information that should lead to the consideration of alternative approaches to evaluation and, by virtue of considering these alternatives, to the development of the most appropriate research plan” (p. 4). The Handbook anticipated four decades ago the significance of context and what has become an increasingly important systems perspective in evaluation by devoting four chapters to the conceptual and methodological issues involved in understanding the relationships of individuals, target populations, and programs to “attributes of their environmental context” (p.6). She was surprised, like everyone else at the time, by the huge response to the book, but understood that it foretold the emergence of an important new field. The Handbook introduced a wide readership to evaluation pioneers like Carol Weiss and Donald Campbell. In addition, Marcia Guttentag led the founding of the Evaluation Research Society in 1976, AEA’s predecessor organization. It is altogether appropriate that the AEA Promising New Evaluator Award is named in honor of Marcia Guttentag.


Derner, G.F. (1980). Obituary: Marcia Guttentag (1932-1977). American Psychologist, Vol 35(12), 1138-1139.

Guttentag, M., & Secord, P. F. (1983). Too many women?: The sex ratio question. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

Marcia Guttentag, Psychology’s Feminist Voices

Struening, E. L., & Guttentag, M. (1975). Handbook of evaluation research (Vol. 2). Sage Publications.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Memorial Week in Evaluation: Remembering and Honoring Evaluation’s Pioneers. The contributions this week are remembrances of evaluation pioneers who made enduring contributions to our field. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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